A recent federally funded evaluation examines the impacts of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Overall, its authors estimate that participating in the program for two years reduced students’ achievement by about 10 percentile points in math and about 3.8 percentile points in English language arts, though the latter estimate isn’t statistically significant. However, the program did positively impact parents’ and students’ perceptions of school safety.

In general, these results are highly consistent with the results of a similar evaluation published last year, which found that program participation reduced math and reading achievement by 7.3 and 4.9 percentile points, respectively, after one year. And because these estimates are based on the results of a program-wide lottery, there’s not much to quibble with methodologically.

Conceivably, the latest negative achievement estimates could still reflect the “transition costs” associated with switching to a new school. But the consistency between the first- and second-year estimates doesn’t bode well for this hypothesis. The more likely explanation is that the performance of D.C.’s public schools—including both its district schools and its many charters—has improved to the point where at least some private schools are struggling to compete. (After all, D.C. boasts one of the...


Every two years, educational researchers eagerly await scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), eager to dive into the results and hypothesize reasons for changes—or lack thereof—in the data. But what NAEP actually reveals about education across the fifty states is more complex than simple score comparisons. In a recent report from the Brookings Institution, Matthew Chingos follows NAEP cohorts from fourth to eighth grade, finding that students in some states make gains at both levels, while others lose early gains by eighth grade or, conversely, catch up despite a slow start.

NAEP analyses typically compare students in the same grade across years. Instead, Chingos tracks cohort four-year growth from 2003 to 2017 (for example, comparing 2013 fourth grade scores to 2017 eighth grade scores). Rather than using raw NAEP scores, the report uses demographically adjusted scores calculated by Chingos and his colleagues at the Urban Institute. These adjustments use restricted-use student-level data to account for demographic differences across states, controlling for race, English language learner status, free or reduced-price lunch eligibility, birth month and year, frequency with which a language other than English is spoken in the home, and Individualized Education Plan status. NAEP tests different...

By Dr. Thomas Burnford

To anyone who has attended or sent their children to a Catholic school, or worked in one, the findings of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s study Self-Discipline and Catholic Schools: Evidence from Two National Cohorts are no surprise. Catholic schools are dedicated to educating the whole child—mind, body and spirit—with a focus on the development of intellect, personhood, and relationships. Those foci are evident in the study’s major findings: Catholic school students exhibit more self-control and self-discipline and are less likely to act out or be disruptive than students in other private or public schools.

Why do Catholic school students attain more self-discipline than their peers at other schools? There are several reasons:

  1. The transmission of the Catholic understandings of freedom, happiness, and moral objectivity are taught to children at a young age. Happiness, Catholics believe, is the fruit of living with the personal freedom that is the foundation for the pursuit of virtue-guided morality. Catholics believe that teaching morality in accordance with Gospel values enables all members in a Catholic school community to show self-discipline and respect for oneself, for others, and for all of creation. Judeo-Christian virtues such as kindness, humility, and diligence are not only explicitly
  2. ...

Two years ago, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched a $75 million five-year initiative called New Skills for Youth (NSFY). The goal was to expand access to high-quality career and technical education programs that can lead students to postsecondary degrees, credentials, and well-paying jobs.

As part of the initiative, the company partnered with the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE, and Education Strategy Group to run a multi-year grant competition for states interested in strengthening their CTE sectors. In 2016, twenty-four states and Washington, D.C., were awarded grants worth $100,000 as part of phase one, which required states to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment and develop a three-year action plan. In early 2017, phase two began after ten states were awarded $2 million apiece to expand and improve career pathways for high school students over the course of three years. These states include Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The first year of phase two is now complete, and a recently released 2017 snapshot outlines the “notable progress” that selected states made in designing, enhancing, and scaling high-quality career pathways. Here’s a look at how a few of...

J. Jacob Kirksey

Catholic schools are the largest provider of private education in the United States, yet most of the research on their performance has ignored what may be the biggest reason that parents (or guardians) send their children to Catholic schools—namely, self-discipline.

In a new report I coauthored with Michael Gottfried for the Fordham Institute, Catholic Education and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Two National Cohorts, we address this gap in the literature by examining the “noncognitive skills” of Catholic students in two nationally representative cohorts of elementary students to see if attending a Catholic school is associated with greater self-discipline. Although prior studies have considered outcomes that are plausibly related to this skill (such as graduation and voting), to our knowledge our study is the first to examine Catholic students’ self-discipline directly (and the first consider their behavior in elementary school).

In the study, we gauge students’ “self-discipline” by externalizing behavior problems (lower likelihood of arguing, getting angry, fighting, etc.) and self-control (higher likelihood of controlling one’s temper, respecting others’ property, and handling peer pressure, among other things). Overall, we found that students attending Catholic schools exhibited better self-discipline than comparable students in other private or public schools, as measured by both...


How does self-discipline develop? Certainly it comes in part from institutions of civil society such as home, family, and church. But schools can make a difference too, and over the years Catholic schools—the largest provider of private education in the United States—have been particularly committed to the development of sound character, including the acquisition of self-discipline.

How well has that worked? Given the widespread interest and importance of improving student behavior and reducing the need for harsh forms of external discipline, it would benefit all sectors of the education community to know whether children in Catholic schools actually exhibit more self-discipline than their peers—and if so, what other public and private schools might have to learn from them about how these positive behaviors can be fostered.

To that end, a new Fordham Institute study, Self-Discipline and Catholic Schools: Evidence from Two National Cohorts, asks two questions:

  1. Are children in Catholic elementary schools more self-disciplined than similar students in other schools, as measured by their likelihood of arguing and fighting and the ability to control their temper, among other things?
  2. Is the relationship between Catholic school attendance and self-discipline stronger for certain types of students?

To lead the study, we...


It seems likely that the Trump administration will soon revise or rescind an Obama-era directive intended to address racial disparities in school disciplinary actions. The "Dear Colleague" letter in question, issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice in 2014, has been the subject of much debate. It stated that school districts could be investigated and found guilty of violating students' civil rights when doling out punishments, even if the discipline policies were race-neutral and implemented in even-handed ways (in other words, even if there was no evidence of discriminatory treatment of students).

Yet the latest federal discipline data, released earlier this month, show that African American students continue to be disciplined at higher rates than white students. While U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos held roundtable meetings with lawmakers in April to hear debates about the guidance from both sides, there is no timeline for the administration's final decision.

But school discipline reform did not begin with President Obama, and it won't end with President Trump. Momentum for change has been gaining steam for years, which legislatures and school boards have increasingly codified into laws and practices at state and local levels.

If the Trump administration makes...


Last month, Dan Porterfield presided over his final commencement as President of Franklin & Marshall College before leaving the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, school he had led since 2011 to become the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. Under Porterfield, F&M partnered with several high-profile charter and Catholic school networks and programs, including KIPP, Cristo Rey, Uncommon Schools, Achievement First, and the Posse Scholars program, to attract low-income students of color to F&M and other selective colleges, and to keep them persisting. Those efforts were the centerpiece of “No Excuses Kids Go to College,” a cover story Robert Pondiscio wrote for Education Next in 2013. Pondiscio conducted an “exit interview” with Porterfield last month on the lessons learned from F&M’s work, as well as Porterfield’s plan to continue those efforts at Aspen. 

Robert Pondiscio: The issue of improving college access and graduation rates for “first generation” college-goers from disadvantaged subgroups is strongly associated with you and the work you've done at F&M. What motivated you to make this your issue? And what have you learned from your experience?

Dan Porterfield: What motivated me was the recognition that there are great, well prepared, and highly motivated students across...


The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently added to their trove of teacher preparation evaluations with the 2018 Teacher Prep Review. This year’s study examines 567 traditional graduate, 129 alternative route, and eighteen residency programs across the U.S. (no undergraduate programs were examined). The difference between these programs rests largely on their approach to clinical training: traditional graduate programs require candidates to spend a semester or more student teaching in the classroom of an experienced educator; residencies place candidates in a mentor teacher’s classroom for up to a year; and alternative routes generally lack of student teaching, putting candidates in charge of their own classrooms almost immediately, what NCTQ refers to as an internship.

The report focuses on three key aspects of preparation programs: practice teaching, teacher knowledge, and admissions. To determine quality, reviewers examined whether programs aligned their requirements and instruction with scientific research in each of the three areas. Grades were assigned based on materials like course catalogs, syllabi, and observation forms. Each program was given the opportunity to review NCTQ’s findings and submit additional information.

The first area, practice teaching, evaluates whether programs provide candidates with adequate practice before licensure. NCTQ asserts that in order to...


As states continue to implement the Common Core and similar state standards, a frequent barrier that districts and teachers face is the lack of high-quality curriculum and instructional materials aligned to these new rigorous standards. A promising solution is open-source curricula, such as New York State’s EngageNY, which enable educators to freely use and adapt materials in their classrooms. A recent report from New America examines the ways that many states are starting to embrace and develop such resources.

Researchers Lindsey Tepe and Teresa Mooney analyzed state policies, legislation, and curriculum documents from all fifty states and Washington, D.C., to gain a broad understanding of the landscape of open educational resources (OER). They define OER as materials that are published using an open content license, meaning they are freely available to use, modify, and distribute; they can be as small as a document or single lesson plan or as comprehensive as a full curriculum. Tepe and Mooney focus on what OER were available in each state, how they were used, and how they were shared with stakeholders across the states. And they conducted interviews with educations leaders in fourteen states who were found to have been conducting innovative work...